Serano, Julia. (2013). Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.
Although Excluded is a fairly slim book, it was an incredibly challenging read for me. I had to take it chapter by chapter, write copious notes, let it tumble around in my head, and do outside research. It took me over a month to read, and it left me gasping with anger and heartbreak over the awful history of mainstream feminism’s failure to see intersecting oppressions.
I am not a trans* woman, so I am not intimately familiar with the forms of transmisogyny that Serano describes: the subtle withholding of praise for behavior that does not conform to expectations, the silence and lack of welcome in feminist spaces, the overt bullying and exclusion, such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s “womyn-born-womyn” policy. These are not barbs that I have to deal with, and although I was peripherally aware of them, this book opened my eyes and heart and encouraged me to seek other resources and learn more about how to be a better ally.
Because Serano is a human being, she is speaking from her own position, and because I have my own experiences, I don’t always agree with everything she says. For example, I dislike her insistence that folks who form romantic attachments to people of more than one gender should be called bisexual even if they don’t identify that way. However, disagreement with a text does not mean that the text is “wrong” or “bad.” It does mean (for me) that I would really like to read this book with others and discuss and hear others’ points of views about each chapter. Activism can’t take place in a bubble, after all.
For me, the last 60 pages are the real meat of the book. What comes before is vital to understanding Serano’s experience as well as the troubling history of exclusion in activist communities, but there is a great deal of repetition (though this can be a good discursive strategy for making an important message understood). I felt like I kept saying “yes, this is awful- what can we do about it?” and was so pleased that she outlined a strategy for inclusive feminism at the end.
I do wish that there were more clearly detailed guidelines, but I suspect that what’s needed are case studies of communities making a commitment to inclusion and collaborating together to follow Serano’s guidelines (or add to them, or create their own). I think this book needs to be read in book clubs and classes; its value lies in the possibilities of analyzing and collaborating as a community of activists. I wholeheartedly recommend Excluded to self-identified activists, and strongly encourage both public and academic libraries to order it immediately.